ACLU drops suit against Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar for social media blocking

Aug 6, 2018, 11:02 AM

WASHINGTON – The Arizona chapter of American Civil Liberties Union on Friday withdrew a lawsuit it had filed against U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, after he blocked two constituents from his social media accounts.

Both sides claimed victory in the fight, with Gosar’s general counsel calling it a fitting conclusion to a court case that lacked merit, while the ACLU celebrated the end of what it called a practice of “censoring comments that express opposing or critical viewpoints.”

The feud began last fall when J’aime Morgaine, a constituent of Gosar’s, said she was blocked from his official Facebook page after making posts that were critical of him. The Kingman resident said that when Gosar’s office stopped responding to her attempts to address the issue, she sued charging that his actions violated her First Amendment right to free speech.

Her September lawsuit drew national headlines and got Morgaine renewed access to Gosar’s Facebook account.

“Welcome back to my Facebook, @JMorgaine,” said an Oct. 11 tweet from Gosar’s verified Twitter account. “The floor’s all yours.”

But that didn’t stop Morgaine or the ACLU from filing a suit in U.S. District Court in Arizona in April on behalf of her and another blocked constituent, charging that Gosar infringed on their “right to express opposing viewpoints in online public forums.”

ACLU staff attorney Darrell Hill, who represented Morgaine and fellow plaintiff Paul Hamilton, said earlier this summer that the suit was filed because “the First Amendment prohibits public officials from suppressing speech on the basis of the speaker’s viewpoint.”

But Tom Van Flein, Gosar’s chief of staff and general counsel, said the case was pursued “for political reasons and not legal reasons.”

“This was never about free speech,” Van Flein said. “This was about using our platform to vent hatred and intolerance.”

Hill called Van Flein’s comments “absolutely wrong.”

“The only reason the lawsuit was dropped was because Mr. Gosar made concrete changes to his social media policy when he agreed to not block people in the future,” Hill said. “Without those changes, we would still be pursuing this lawsuit.”

A federal judge in New York ruled in May in an unrelated case against President Donald Trump that the president’s social media account is a public forum and people had a right to post to it, but legal experts split on whether that ruling would apply to a congressman’s account.

Morgaine, now a candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives, said Friday that she had intended to see that suit through to its completion, but was able to achieve most of what she wanted and did not want to “waste ACLU resources by continuing with the lawsuit.”

“I wanted to be unblocked, that was the first,” she said. “The second piece was that I wanted him to modify his social media policy to be consistent with the Constitution. And the third piece was a wanted a declaratory judgment that what he was doing was unconstitutional.”

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

phoenix landscape skyline...
Associated Press

Maricopa County near top in white, Black, Hispanic population growth

Metro Phoenix's Maricopa County had among the biggest population growth in white, Black and Hispanic residents last year, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
9 hours ago
Myron Scott (Courtesy Photo)...

Missing Valley man found safe; Silver Alert canceled

A Phoenix man missing for weeks was found safe Wednesday, said authorities, who canceled a Silver Alert.
9 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Julie Gunnigle, Photo)...
Danny Shapiro

Gunnigle says Mitchell stance on abortion law creates more confusion in Maricopa County

Democratic candidate Julie Gunnigle believes acting Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell's stance on how to enforce abortion law in light of Roe v. Wade being overturned has only caused more confusion.
9 hours ago
Republican candidates for Arizona governor from left to right, Scott Neely, Kari Lake, Paola Tullia...

Republican Arizona gubernatorial candidates square off in contentious debate

Arizona's four remaining Republican candidates for governor took the stage Wednesday night in a contentious televised debate that covered various topics.
9 hours ago
Paul R Newman (Mesa Police Department Photo)...

Suspect identified in officer-involved shooting with Mesa police on Friday

The suspect in an officer-involved shooting with Mesa police on Friday was identified and booked on multiple charges, authorities said.
9 hours ago
(Pixabay Photo)...

22 indicted after investigation of south Phoenix criminal street gang

An investigation of a criminal street gang operating in south Phoenix resulted in 22 indictments for various drug charges, authorities said Wednesday.
9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
ACLU drops suit against Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar for social media blocking